In June of 1980, I walked across the stage to receive my diploma at Florida State University. At the time, I had no intention of ever taking another college level course. I was 21 years old and looking forward to life after college. I had applied for a few Television reporting jobs, almost all of them in Florida. I figured if all else failed, I could return home and expand my weekend duties as a radio personality (DJ). It only took a month or two until the television job offers started to roll in one after the other. At the end of that summer I had landed a position at a TV station in Washington DC.
My career would eventually take me from Florida to Washington, DC to West Virginia and eventually to Baltimore. I must admit that finding a church to attend was not at the top of my list of things to do, even though I had been raised in the faith. However, it only took 15 months for my life to turn upside down. I found myself no longer employed. I had a growing family to provide for an income from a small unemployment check. I believe those hard knocks I received along life’s journey helped to drive me back to church and renew my relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
In 1999, I headed back to the school as a first semester seminary student at Saint Mary’s Ecumenical Institute. One class led to two classes. In a few years time I had earned a Master of Theology degree. My going back to school became a witness to my children. They recognized the value of an education based on what they observed at home with my wife and me. It all began with that one class. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I had become a serious and committed student, unlike those days back in Florida.
The day I crossed the stage at Saint Mary’s Seminary I began to look for other learning opportunities. My wife recommended I take some time off before enrolling in a doctoral program. I convinced myself, and eventually her that the time was right to head back to the classroom. She supported my decision. I found myself almost every night sitting alongside my children at the kitchen table preparing papers and presentations. It was during those moments I realized that I had become a life-long learner. I earned my Doctor of Ministry degree from Virginia University of Lynchburg in May 2010.
I want to encourage you, the reader, to take the leap to learn. I hope you’ll take time to investigate what courses are being offered at your church, university, community college or trade school. I believe that going back to school will help strengthen your faith, and open doors of opportunities in the marketplace or in your community. The greatest benefit for me and countless others who have returned to the classroom, is to become a witness for family and friends. We must remember that someone is always watching and modeling what they see in us in the classroom or at home.
Even today, there are a number of places in my home where books remain on the shelves and papers in the filing cabinet. They remind me of how God has and continues to guide my life. There is at least one scripture passage that continues to encourage me. “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” I might add that I am not currently enrolled in a formal educational setting. Stay tuned!
Rev. Dr. Tim Tooten, Sr. is the Senior Education Reporter for WBAL-TV (NBC) in Baltimore. He’s also the pastor and founder of Harvest Christian Ministries.